A Free Dreamer Review:Kogitsune (Takamagahara Monogatari #1) by Xia Xia Lake

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking.

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).

Read it here: https://xiaxiastorylake.com/2018/11/20/kogitsune/
Or download it from Smashwords for free: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909645

Usually I don’t read short stories, but “Kogitsune” did not just tempt me with its blurb, but also with the promise of a real novel for the next part. I just couldn’t resist a historical fantasy novel set in medieval Japan and it was absolutely worth the time.

I love Japan, I love mythology in general, and I love fantasy and Kogitsune is a  combination of all three things. I’m somewhat familiar with Japanese folklore, but I’ve never heard of this play before. That didn’t stop me from fully enjoying this book. You don’t need to be an expert on all things Japanese to understand and enjoy this story, but you should probably be familiar with common Japanese terms and titles. The author did provide a link with explanations at the beginning of the story, though.

The story itself is incredibly romantic, beautiful and yet heartbreaking all at once. I don’t want to reveal any details about the plot, they would probably be a spoiler. So I’ll only say that I loved it.

Overall, the story felt a little bit short. But it definitely did it’s job. It made me curious to find out more and I happily read part two. If you’re curious too, give it a shot. It’s short and free, so there’s really nothing to lose.

The cover is cute and fits the story perfectly. I like it.

Find the story here.

Book details: ebook, 40 pages

Published November 20th 2018

A Free Dreamer Review: Shinigami (Takamagahara Monogatari #2) by Xia Xia Lake

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu.

While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.

After the good first part of the series, I was really curious about the actual novel. And I was not disappointed.

Shinigami” is part two of the series, even though it’s set before the events of “Kogitsune”. You should read “Kogitsune” before you pick up this book. It’s a free short story, so there’s nothing to lose and it will definitely help you understand this book.

I’m not sure if the blurb quite does this amazing book justice. It sounds a little trivial, when this story is anything but. I probably wouldn’t call it a “coming-of-age love story” either, more like historical fantasy steeped in Japanese mythology with a healthy dash of heartbreaking romance.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Japan and it’s folklore and mythology.  After the very good first part, I had very high expectations of this second installment. And “Shinigami” did not just live up to them, it actually exceeded them.

I’m somewhat familiar with Japanese mythology, but not an expert by any means. There’s a dictionary at the end of the book, so you can always cross check if you don’t understand something. You should still be familiar with the most common Japanese titles, though. I actually felt like I now know more about Japan than I did before starting the book, but it never felt like the author was writing a lecture.

The romance itself is rather slow burn, since the book essentially starts with Hiro’s birth. So it takes a while for Hiro and Ryu to meet and it takes even longer for a romantic relationship to develop. But that allowed for a natural growth of their feelings and it was wonderful to witness it. There’s not a ton of sex either and it’s not very explicit, but it was definitely very sensual.

The setting of ancient Japan was extremely well written. The author clearly did a lot of research and knows what she’s writing about. I loved all the details and it made it all very real to me. It’s not always an easy read, so you might not want to read while half asleep. Unless you know your Japanese history and mythology in your sleep, then you’re all set. If not, it does require a bit of concentration, because it’s a rather complex story.

I was happy to get a background story for a few characters of the first part. Biko-san makes another appearance and he’s so adorable. I’m totally naming a cat after him, if I ever get one.

There were some very emotional moments, both happy and sad. It never felt sappy or over the top, though. The ending was both heartbreaking and wonderful and I’m eagerly awaiting part three. That one will be about a minor character who only got one scene in the entire book, but I’m still curious to learn more about him.

Overall, “Shinigami” is a truly brilliant book. If you love historical fantasy, Japanese mythology and folklore and don’t mind a slow-burn, non-traditional romance, you must read this series. One of my highlights of the year.

That cover. Oh my god. So cool. I love it. I’m totally having a fangirl moment just because of the cover. It’s perfect and makes me sad I don’t own a print version. It would look great in my bookshelf.

Book 2 – Shinigami 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

 

Book details:

Kindle Edition,245 pages

Published October 1st 2019 (first published August 13th 2019)

Takamagahara Monogatari Series

Kogitsune

Shinigami

Love Fantasy and Mythology? Check out the Tour for Shinigami by Xia Xia Lake (excerpts)

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REVIEW TOUR

Book Title: Shinigami

Author: Xia Xia Lake

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date:  October 1, 2019  

Genre/s: LGBTQ fantasy, Gay fiction, Historical fiction (it’s NOT MM romance)

Trope/s:  Friends to Lovers

Themes: Mythology; gods; supernatural

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 71 440 words /220 pages 

Add on Goodreads

 

Nothing is what it seems.

Blurb

A coming of age love story between the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato and an orphan. The human world meets the yōkai world in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu. While he battles to find his own path in life, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will first become his secret friend, then his salvation, then, as they become adults together, the love of his life. 

The story is set during the Nara period of ancient Japan and will expand over a period of 25 years (715-740).  

 

Buy Links

Book 1 – Kogitsune.

It’s a 40-page short story and is FREE on Smashwords.

 

Book 2 – Shinigami 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Kagerō
Kagerō: The quivering appearance of the mist rising from the hot surface of the ground”

On the day Fujiwara no Hirotsugu was born, Mount Kasuga was covered in golden shimmering kagerō rising from the ground to cloak the mountain in mist. The uguisu sang from dusk until dawn, and a crane appeared in the palace garden and didn’t leave for five days.

It was late May, close to the final days of planting the rice. These were the days when finishing the paddy field work was paramount, lest next year’s crops be affected. Yet in celebration of Hirotsugu’s birth, his father, Umakai, sent an order to his bailiff to decree half a day off for all workers. Servants from the palace went down the mountain to offer rice, fish, and sake to the poor in Heijo-kyo.

Gifts poured through the gates for weeks, coming not only from the greatest families living in the land of Yamato, but also from as far away as Silla and Tang. Even the old Empress Genmei, who had no love for the Fujiwara clan, sent Hirotsugu a gift fit for royalty: a sword replica modeled after Kusanagi the Grass Slasher, the sacred imperial heirloom of the Yamato Emperors. Since it was forbidden for anyone except the reigning monarch and the High Priest of the Ise Grand Shrine to lay eyes on the real Kusanagi, no one could actually tell how good the replica was. But neither could they deny that the sword Hirotsugu received was of exceptional workmanship and extraordinary value.

The greatest gift of all came from Hirotsugu’s grandfather, Fujiwara no Fuhito. The leader of the Fujiwara clan made a secret pact with Crown Prince Obito that on the day Hirotsugu turned twenty, he would marry Princess Abe, Prince Obito’s firstborn child.

Upon Hirotsugu’s birth, the Fujiwara clan made great plans for his future, and I watched from my throne of skulls behind the kagerō veil and laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

SPRING

Chapter 2: Uguisu
Uguisu: The Japanese nightingale

In spring, nature was at its most beautiful at dawn, when Amaterasu’s robe touched the hills and dyed them red, and the blooming cherry trees turned a vibrant pink. Hanging from the eaves of every Fujiwara castle were tendrils of purple wisteria, their blooms awakening to welcome the Sun Goddess. The white clouds above resembled boughs of cherry flowers.

When night approached, the birdsong gently shifted from cheerful to forlorn. The uguisu went to sleep in its pot-shaped nest, and the brown-feathered night thrush—recently returned from wintering in Tenjiku—took its place and claimed the night. Now and then, a deer would call and a fawn would answer back.

The day Hirotsugu was born, a young god wandered up and down the high-forested slopes of Mount Kasuga, tired from the day he’d spent blessing the fields and the future harvest. He would have gone home to Mount Kurama in Kibune, but something was amiss with the yōkai living on Kasuga and he’d come to investigate.

At twilight, he found a group of kodama and an old kappa gathered underneath the budding leaves of a giant plum tree, transfixed by its beautiful red blossoms. When he entered the clearing, they were trying to touch the blossoms, but as soon as a hand came close, the tree would raise its branches out of reach.

“Don’t touch it,” the god commanded. His voice was calm, but it came like the snap of a whip and took them out of their reverie. “It’s a ghost tree. It’s not really here.”

The kodama stumbled backward, frightened.

“When did it appear?” the young god asked.

“This morning, Inari-sama,” the kappa answered. “When the baby was born.”

“Baby?” Inari frowned. “Come closer, child, don’t be afraid. Which baby do you speak of?”

 

About the Author 

Xia Xia Lake is an Otaku & Slytherin that used to cosplay at every comic con she attended, until a kid asked if he could take a picture with the “old lady.”

She decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to spend her free time writing stories and partying with vampires.

She lives in Transylvania with her fiancé and is a big fan of Romanian cuisine.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Twitter  |  Instagram

 Pinterest  |  Goodreads

 

 

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

 

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